I am currently in my second year of grad school, and I’ve been in a monogamous relationship since my senior year in high school. I am not trying to brag or bemoan the values of today’s youth. On the contrary, I think being single in college generally makes more sense than attempting a committed relationship. Don’t get me wrong, my relationship with my wife is the best thing that has happened to me, and I would not trade it for the world, but I realize that we have been incredibly lucky to find each other, and that, going by numbers, young love usually doesn’t pan out. If you are one of those crazy kids who are determined to make it work though, I have learned some things that may help in the long haul.
First of all, consider partying. While we are all here to learn, college is undoubtedly one of the best opportunities for partying in your life and you would be remiss to squander it. There is some truth to the sitcom stereotype that people who have “settled down,” party less. Especially when you live with your significant other, there is a temptation to turn down invitations to parties and other adventures in favor of a quiet night inside. Sometimes it is a good trade, but you do miss out on the opportunity to meet new people and the stories that come with them. My wife and I combatted this creeping domestic complacency by regularly throwing parties and get-togethers with our groups of friends. In addition to being a lot of fun, you learn a lot about the college social scene that you might miss.
One thing you want to avoid is being excessively adorable together. Symptoms of excessive adorableness include taking all your electives together, using pet names in public and constantly referring to yourself as ‘we’ in conversation when only one of you is present. In a young relationship, a little of this is inevitable and even important. But too much sweetness can be toxic. In addition to depriving you both of dignity and being an ungodly annoyance to your friends, it makes it easy to bury difficult-but-important conversations beneath exchanges of empty affection.
It may sound trite and pithy, but communication is essential for any long-term relationship, and especially so in college when people are experimenting and reinventing their identity. If Tech does its job and introduces you to exciting new ways to look at the world, odds are good you will not be the same person as a senior that you were as a freshman, and the same is true of your significant other. Keeping track of each other’s personal epiphanies takes a lot of long, personal conversations. Often times, staying together in such circumstances will simply not make sense.
One of the biggest challenges collegiate monogamy presents is maintaining your independence and individuality. The extra support and encouragement you receive in a serious relationship is invaluable, but when it is gladly and freely given it can also easily be taken for granted. If it is routinely relied upon, it can prevent you from fully maturing as a responsible adult. The converse is also true of course, and when you are so eager to see somebody succeed, it’s not always obvious when you stop being merely helpful and become a crutch. There will be times when you have to prioritize between your relationship and your school work, and those are tough choices to make.
The hardest choice I ever made was to come to Georgia a month after marrying my wife, as she continued to study in California. But we have managed to make it work through Skype, texts, many frequent flyer miles and two drives across the county. It was the right choice, too. If either of us compromised our education or career paths, we would always wonder what could have been, and maybe even grow to resent each other over it. In the end, we agreed that the best thing for our future together would be spend our present apart. That said, I would advise you to avoid long distance relationships if at all possible, because it will strain your relationship regardless of how strong it is.
On top of all this, you have to contend with regular long-term relationship issues, like winning over your significant other’s friends and families, learning to sustain romance as routine sets in and getting acquainted with all the skeletons in each other’s closets. These are not challenges for the faint or half-hearted, but they are not insurmountable and the rewards are invaluable.